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Dos Santos building the Swope Park Rangers from scratch

Everything the Rangers do is focused on making the first team better

The Ranger were only able to train outside one day while in Kansas City
The Ranger were only able to train outside one day while in Kansas City
Thad Bell

The Swope Park Rangers are in Arizona alongside Sporting Kansas City and starting to play actual matches this week after training in Kansas City last week. Before they headed to Tucson for some warmth and competition, we were able to watch a few sessions and speak with Ranger head coach Marc Dos Santos as he began the building process.

Right off the bat Dos Santos started to build the team identity, reinforcing the work ethic, the movement, the team play that represents Sporting Kansas City and assembling a group of individuals into a team.

"You can see they are adapting to a way of training and that is very important when you have a lot of players coming from different places, different cultures and different methodologies of work," Dos Santos explained. "There is a period of adaptation to a way of training, a way of playing and I think that we've been able to do something good there. Slowly we are seeing an identity, slowly we are seeing a way of being, a way of playing and that's very good I think."

How does this compare to his previous experience?

Creating a team is not new to Dos Santos, he helped build the Ottawa Fury in the NASL from scratch, taking them to the championship game in their second year before losing to the New York Cosmos.

Dos Santos explains the difference. "The quality, we cannot say it is the same. We are a B team, there are a lot of young players. Where maybe the team I built in Ottawa I could have players of 30 years old, I could have players that are 32, my keeper was 36. It was a completely different type of expansion compared to a team that is around 23 years old. Today we had players that were on the field of 17, 18 (Sporting Academy players). So it's a different type of buildup but the process is the same when it comes to building them around a way, a model of playing."

"Every season has been fun and it is an opportunity, I am blessed to coach every day," Dos Santos added later. "This has been different. You asked about building Ottawa, here you build but always looking at the first team and always in communication with the first team. Always with that factor of guys that could move up to the first team and guys that could come down from the first team. You're not really working alone; you're building something with an integration with another team. With Ottawa is just one project, one plan so it is a different type of buildup. Not one that is easy to do but one that is very rewarding."

Knowing there will be movement in both directions, Dos Santos was asked if he will look at Sporting KC's roster to ask for players to be loaned down and he was quick to reply, "No, no! If I am selfish and just think about the result of course. I say hey man I would love to have these three or four but you can't look at it that way. Peter (Vermes) has been very connected to the B team, he's been in three of the five days (in Kansas City) we trained. He talks to me about the B team every day. He is concerned a lot of course with what he has to do with the first team but I don't think a lot of team in MLS have this integration between the first and second team and I think that is very positive."

"We are going to score plenty, make sure we defend"

During one of the drills in their first couple days, Coach Dos Santos let his team know he was not worried about scoring. "We are going to score plenty, make sure we defend," came across clearly. Coach made sure the players were, in no uncertain terms, getting to where they needed to be to defend properly.

With that bold of a statement, coach had to be asked about it after that practice. "Of course! We're going to score. I think that a team that is organized is the most important thing and the thing they have to understand first is how do we defend as a team, how do we defend as a unit. I know the pieces we have going forward, I have a lot of confidence in that, it is the part of our game that I am less concerned."

"First I think that when you play against teams that first they don't concede, they end up winning and that is what we want. Look, of course the most important thing here is not, people can say it is not about winning, it is about developing players for the first team and yes we totally agree with that.  At the same time I think we develop well if we instill a winning mentality and that is what we are trying to do from the start. Installing in these guys a winning mentality because Sporting KC is about that and have to focus on that," Dos Santos finished.

The Academy

One of the mantra's that all of the Sporting KC and Swope Park Ranger coaches, technical directors and staff preach every time they speak is vertical integration. They want players moving from the Academy to USL and to MLS, having a direct pipeline of talent and having the appropriate places for players to gain experience.

Before the Rangers were even announced, staff would talk about the desire to have the USL team in place and what it would do. Academy director Jon Parry described the future USL team as the top level of the Academy but the more common phrase now is it is a bridge. Gone are the days when Sporting KC will sign a kid fresh out of high school (or maybe still in) and then not play him because he is not ready.

In the future, expect to see Academy kids cutting their teeth on USL competition, getting experience and proving themselves before moving up.

"We have a mandate," Dos Santos stated. "We want to make sure we pay attention to the kids coming from the Academy and that we do give them a fair chance and a fair chance is having them in this environment. Not one day or two, more days but we have to take our time, we have to make sure there is a process, we have to make sure that they grow and do well in that process and we have to give them time. We want to invest our time in that and we want to make sure we do things in the right way with them."

"Our objective is to see a player grow, a player coming (to the Academy)at like 12 or 13 years old and one day, who knows, being the captain of Sporting Kansas City," Dos Santos said. "That is the major dream when you are building from scratch but we know everything is a process, everything is new and there is a lot of work that is going to need to be done."

The Rangers had several Academy players train with them when they were in Kansas City and took five along with them to Arizona, four U-18 player: Ezra Armstrong, Hakim Diaw, Will Little and Steven Tekesky. They also brought Jaylin Lindsey a U-16 player that has received national team attention already.

From every corner

It's not just Academy players of course, the Rangers have signed players with a focus on the potential to contribute to the first team at some point as well. We will do a more in depth look at the current roster in the near future but one player stands out the moment. Kevin Oliveira was not in Kansas City but will join then in Arizona when the visa process is finished.

Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman had hinted at his arrival on twitter leading fans to think he was destined for the first team. They were hoping to get Oliveira on loan from Benifica but the opportunity to purchase was too good to pass up.

When asked about Oliveira, Dos Santos replied, "Oh, he is a special player. He is a very good center mid, he is dynamic, excellent technically. This is a kid that is 18, now 19 that has already played a game for his national team of Cape Verde. It's one of the best teams at the moment in Africa and for him to do that at such a young age, it's because he has good qualities."

While coach has a high regard for the young midfielder, he made sure to say they will give him time to adjust. "I don't expect the players that are coming from the outside to have an impact right away because it takes an adaptation period. It's players that maybe played in Portugal or Brazil, come in to North America, come in to the US, everybody speaking English. The first couple of weeks it is let me adapt, let me understand but I am sure with time he is going to show all the soccer that he has in him."

Preseason schedule

With four games scheduled over ten days, the Rangers should get a good look at their roster players, trialists and possible loans from the first team.

Swope Park Rangers 2016 Preseason Schedule

All games played at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona

Check SportingKC.Com for live streams


Time (CT)



Wednesday, Feb. 17

6:30 pm

Colorado Rapids

Desert Diamond Cup

Saturday, Feb. 20

5:30 pm

Arizona United SC

Desert Diamond Cup

Wednesday, Feb. 24

7 pm

Columbus Crew SC

Desert Diamond Cup

Saturday, Feb. 27

5 pm

FC Tucson

Desert Diamond Cup